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BNOC, Karate Tokyo Olympics Conundrum

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  •  As BNOC strikes out karate from Tokyo Olympics preliminary team because they feel that there is no one from the code who stands the opportunity of qualifying for the Games
  • Local karate star Bakwadi however believes that he can qualify

TLOTLO KEBINAKGABO

Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) have taken a decision to dismiss karate from the Tokyo Olympics preliminary team as they hold that no one from the code stands a chance of making it to the Games an occurrence that local karate sensation Ofentse Bakwadi does not concur with.

BNOC have been busy preparing athletes from various sporting codes including karate in their efforts to send a strong team to the Tokyo Olympics which have since been postponed to next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, according to BNOC CEO Tuelo Serufho they have since decided to drop karate from the preliminary team in accordance with their assessments that shows that no one from the code will make it to Tokyo.

 “It is over for them, they do not stand a chance of qualifying so we have decided to drop them,” he told Gazette Sport in a telephonic interview. “Initially we thought a few of them would qualify but as time passed by we realised they do not stand a chance. Their qualification is mainly determined by rankings and as they stand no one from the code is better placed to qualify.”

Even though he concurs with BNOC that none of the local karatekas can make it to the Games due to their current ranking standings, karate star in Bakwadi says he still stands a chance of qualifying for the Games. That is at the Karate Olympic Qualification Tournament billed for Paris, France, it is the final qualification tournament where athletes will be able to qualify for Karate’s debut at the Games.

“I have been aiming for it all along; I have been using these other tournaments as preparation for that major tournament,” the 2017 Union Federation of Africa Karate (UFAK) gold medalist  told Gazette Sport in a interview. “I am sure that with enough training I will qualify, I am sure of it as I have done well before. The good thing about the Paris tournament is that the top karatekas will not be there as they already qualified.”

Bakwadi however, agrees that competition is going to be tough in Paris. “Unfortunately competition there is not like at Continental games and it is going to be more difficult there,” he said. “But it is not like one cannot do well there, if prepared enough one can do well. You must understand that we have been attending these other tournaments without preparation and that is why we have not dished impressive performances. By preparation I mean going to Japan for two months or so, which is what other athletes are doing.”

The 2019 Africa Karate Championships kata bronze medalist went on to note that karate did not receive enough from BNOC from the get go. “The support has not been enough, I started the Olympics pursuit on my own as I sent myself to many competitions as compared to what they did,” he decried. “It is not like I do not appreciate the help that they have been giving me, I do and I understand that their other athletes who also need to be assisted by BNOC.”

He said since karate has now been dropped  he will  go back to the drawing board and see if he cannot have talks with Botswana Karate Association (BOKA) to see if they cannot help him qualify. “And if it means funding myself to attend the Paris tournament I will do so,” Bakwadi stated. “I will figure a way of raising funds for myself and continue with my Olympic dream. Even if it means selling my car to fund myself I will do so, I am ready to do so.”

Should he fail to take part in Tokyo, Bakwadi may never be able to represent the nation at the Olympics as the Tokyo Games were basically his last shot to do so mostly considering his age, he is now 35 years old. More bad news for Bakwadi is that karate does not make part of the Paris 2024 Olympics program; he will be aged 43 during the Los  Angeles 2028 Olympics.

Meanwhile, karate will make its first appearance on the Games program at Tokyo 2020, with men and women competing in kata (forms) and kumite (sparring).

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